Flags are at half-staff today as Alaska says goodbye to its longest-serving state representative.
Carl Moses died in Sand Point on Wednesday after a long illness. He was 84. He leaves a legacy of service in Southwest Alaska and across the state.
Most people who knew Carl Moses will tell you he was a man of few words.
“But when he spoke, even I listened,” Laresa, Moses’ wife of 23 years, said.
She says that as a business owner and statesman, her husband was devoted to making the Aleutian Islands and Alaska a better place.
Moses grew up on Sanak Island, near Sand Point. He opened his first store there when he was young, and went on to run stores in False Pass and King Cove, where he was a member of city council.
He was first elected to the state legislature in 1964. Two years later, he settled in Unalaska, where he’d stay for four decades, fishing and running businesses.
Former Unalaska mayor Frank Kelty says from the start, Moses helped put the town on the map.
“I always felt that Carl had a good feeling that fisheries were going to develop here,” Kelty said.
Moses’ general store in Unalaska was Carl’s Commercial, which became a gathering place and a supplier for fishing vessels as the town grew. He later opened a hotel, a bar and, briefly, a steakhouse.
Shirley Marquardt is Unalaska’s current mayor. She says Moses liked contributing to “unfinished places.”
“Certainly business-wise, but then it turned into for being a statesman: how could he help the community grow?” Marquardt said.
Moses was one of just a few early legislators to prioritize fisheries. He won elections as a Republican and a Democrat.
He left the House in 1973 and took what he once called a “20-year vacation” in an interview with KUCB. He built his businesses and served on the state Board of Fish and as president of the Aleut Corporation.
In 1992, a year after he married Laresa, Moses’ friends urged him to return to the House. He ran as an independent and won.
Moses served 11 terms total, more than any other representative. And he did it as a member of all three major political parties.
“He often joked that well, by golly, maybe he’d have to run as a Green party candidate just to round it all out,” Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat who was part of Moses’ staff, said.
He wanted to run for office after Moses retired. But his time came sooner than he’d hoped. Edgmon opposed Moses for his seat in 2006. The tied election was famously decided by a coin toss, which Edgmon won.
“You know, I look back at that occasion with very bittersweet memories, because I never wanted it to be Carl that I was running against,” Edgmon said.
Edgmon says Moses was one of Alaska’s greatest Native leaders. He says Moses taught him a lot about politics – how to be patient, and how to pick your moments.
“When Carl did speak publicly, whether it was in the committee or the rare times he spoke on the House floor, he generally had something profound to say, and memorable as well,” Edgmon said.
Unalaska city manager Chris Hladick remembered Moses with his poker face and his trademark pipe, waiting in his office for plans to come together.
“He’d always be the vote that someone would need at the last minute, and 15 minutes before midnight, they’d go, Carl? … and he had a little piece of paper with his projects written on it, and he says, ‘Time to go,’” Hladick said.
Moses was the architect of the state’s shared fisheries resource landing tax, which brought millions from offshore processors back to coastal communities. And he was a champion of capital projects in his district — those included Sand Point’s harbor, and a small boat harbor in Unalaska that was named for him when it opened in 2011.
Moses left a mark – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski says she admired him when she was in the State House.
“He gave a full career to representing people, not only in the legislature, but at other levels, and you don’t forget that,” Murkowski said.
When Moses left the House, he told his wife Laresa it was time to move away from Unalaska. He wanted to settle somewhere he could return to his roots.
“And I said, ‘Okay, where are we moving to?’ And he said, ‘Sand Point. I want you to come and look.’ So we come to Sand Point … and he took me on these steps and he said, ‘What do you think of a store right here?’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, we’re actually moving here?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Okay, I guess my job is to make home.’ And from 2006 to now, we’ve made Sand Point our home,” Laresa said.
Moses died at that home on Wednesday. Laresa says he wanted his ashes scattered on Sanak. She plans to hold memorial services in Sand Point and Anchorage, along with Moses’ two children, Lewis and Arline, and other friends and family.